(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
When the final votes were tallied Tuesday night, none of that mattered as the Cape Girardeau Republican had the numbers that mattered most, defeating former political ally Ellen Brandom to win the Missouri Senate seat being vacated by Jason Crowell.
"It was a long hard fight," Wallingford said. "When I announced my candidacy, I was told it was risky. I could have just skated through for the next six years in the House. But I don't skate."
With all of the 108 precincts reporting across the six-county 27th District, Wallingford handily won what some said would be a close race with more than 63 percent of the vote. Wallingford garnered 16,406 votes to Brandom's 9,174. Wallingford performed particularly well in Cape Girardeau County, where he gathered 73.3 percent of the vote to Brandom's 26.7 percent.
Since no Democrats have filed to run in the November primary, Wallingford will take over next year.
Residency played a huge factor, Wallingford said. More than 50 percent of all of district's residents live in Cape Girardeau County. The district also includes the counties of Scott, Bollinger, Perry, Madison and Wayne.
Brandom did win her home county of Scott, with 62.8 percent to 37.12 percent. Brandom, of Sikeston, has served in the House for six years.
"But it's more than just where I live," Wallingford said. "The people here have gotten to know me over the years. I've worked here over the years, been involved in the community and the years I've spent as a state rep. A big factor was my name recognition."
As the result became increasingly clear after the polls closed at 7 p.m., Brandom made her concession call from a Cape Girardeau apartment she keeps to Wallingford's office where he works in human resources for the local McDonald's company.
Brandom called and wished Wallingford well. He returned the courtesy.
The conversation, Wallingford said, was brief.
Not surprising, considering that the campaign in recent weeks turned bitter between two former political allies and House members. The friendship seemed to flounder when Wallingford entered the Senate race and he eventually found himself seeking the same office as Brandom. The two never intended to run against each other but were tossed into the same race during the state's redistricting process. The race became more contentious after the two began criticizing each other about who was more conservative.
Brandom claimed Wallingford had connections to unions that would affect his ability to lead. Wallingford suggested that Brandom was not "100 percent pro-life" because she voted for an economic development bill that, he maintained, could have funded stem-cell and cloning research.
On Tuesday, after she knew she'd lost, Brandom said that the inaccurate information cost her the election.
"This is a very pro-life area," Brandom said. "So when it was suggested that I voted for a bill that would pay to research cloning, that had a very negative effect. I definitely think people just didn't really understand that bill."
Brandom said she plans to take the next few weeks to spend time with family, including two young grandsons.
"It's been such an honor to have served the people in my district," Brandom said.
Voters said after they voted that it was this race that had drawn them to the polls. Robyn Martin, 30, of Cape Girardeau, voted at St. Andrew Lutheran Church's precinct 14. She described Wallingford as a "stand up kind of guy."
"He is the one who we should want speaking for us," Martin said.
Martin didn't care for Brandom's political ads that targeted Wallingford, a 25-year Air Force veteran. The spots claimed that Wallingford would be beholden to organized labor because he accepted donations from area unions. That didn't hold water with Martin.
"I've heard the negative ads and it's so frustrating. I know him and what the ads say is just not right."
Not everyone liked any of the ads. Adam Topping, 31, of Cape Girardeau voted for Brandom, but the ads -- which he says were slung by both sides -- made the choice more difficult.
"I wish there was a candidate C," Topping said. "That's who would have gotten my vote."